Rejoice! The End Is Near.

Love’s narchy

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Limits of Anarchy

One of the problems love’s anarchy is meant to solve is the one where everyone has a slightly different view of reality. There are some, for example, who believe that the evil deeds of one particular group are going to bring down God’s judgment upon the rest of us. And there are others who believe with equal fervor that the stupidity of the first group is going to get the rest of us killed. The genius of Christianity, so often lost in our neverending quest for success, is the notion that failure, death and God’s judgment are in fact good things worthy of pursuing and embracing.

Perhaps, given that last statement, you will understand why I have occasionally been accused of being an “Eeyore” (a donkey with a poorly pinned tail and an amusingly glum disposition), but the accusation never fails to surprise me. I consider myself a blessed and happy individual with a boundless hope for the future. It’s just that I learned from my brother Jesus that failure (aka crucifixion) is the proper end of all good endeavors, and I further believe that failing well takes planning and preparation, and that pratfalls take practice.

A friend responded to one of my recent forays into heresy by assuring me that it was probably all right to believe what I wished, so long as I didn’t start a movement. I replied with a glib “God forbid,” but honestly, a movement is exactly what I’m trying to start. What I don’t want to start is a cult. Yes, I’ve considered this question, and while I wish I could with all honesty and humility say that I never expected to start a movement or a cult, the facts of the matter are: a) I am attempting to change the world, b) I have the at-times-importunate gift of speaking with authority, and c) my very name references three cult leaders (Mark Driscoll, Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith), so I am attempting to prepare for the worst, just in case.

My preparation consists in designing love’s anarchy in such a way that failure is at its core, so that any cult or movement that fails on a regular basis to fail on a regular basis has no business affiliating itself with my brand of love’s anarchy. Each time such a legitimately love’s anarchic movement fails, it should do so on behalf of and standing in solidarity with the powerless and disenfranchised, without ever taking itself too seriously. In other words, in order to fail properly, its members should look at least a little foolish, and they should make as little effort as possible to attempt to ennoble that foolishness. As they tumble they should be wearing either a sheepish or a shit-eating grin.

“God’s Fools” is a phrase used by St. Francis of Asissi et alia, and one I would like love’s anarchists to co-opt. It is, after all, the foolishness of God that confounds the wise. Likewise, God’s weakness is more than a match for the strong. But as dogma, I would insist that love’s anarchists conceive of the weakness and foolishness of God as weakness and foolishness. Many people assume that even God’s foolishness is wise beyond human comprehension, but while that may or may not be the case, I insist that it is foolishness, not just the least of God’s wisdom.

Christopher Hitchens, God rest him, rightly called Jesus out on his injunction to “Take no thought for the morrow, either what you shall eat or what you shall wear.” The fact that there is wisdom in Jesus’s instruction–the wisdom of trusting in God’s provision–does not mean that it isn’t also truly foolish. In obeying this edict, you are, in fact, in real danger of dying of hunger and/or exposure. Dying thusly is, I would argue, a good thing, but I don’t want to end up like the followers of Mary Baker Eddy who (anecdotally, anyway) have allowed a child to die for lack of medical care because Christian Scientists don’t believe in medicine. Love’s anarchy seeks to circumvent such dogmatic stubbornness by doing away with dogma altogether (and simultaneously welcoming any dogma any one member happens to come up with).

What you believe shouldn’t matter. All that matters is whether there is love in your heart for your God and your neighbor. Personally, I believe in a personal God, but if there is genuine love in your heart for your neighbor, then even if you don’t believe in any sort of divine personality, God is nevertheless in your heart, unconcerned with your lack of understanding of the divine nature.

Your neighbor, by the by, is anyone God puts in your path who needs your love. There are many ways to fill that need. It may be as simple as smiling at a stranger or as complicated as mercilessly teasing a friend. It may be administering a Heimlich maneuver or (in an emergency) administering a hug.

Love’s anarchy embraces all needs, all gifts, all preferences, but of course there must be a limit. I mean, if everyone belongs to the club, then the club doesn’t really exist, am I right? The limit I decree upon the freedom any given person has to self-identify as a love’s anarchist is wealth and power. That’s right: class warfare. If the rich and powerful want to join us or if they wish to need our help, they can sell all they own and give the money to the poor (not to us, but to Habitat for Humanity, International Justice Mission and/or Planned Parenthood). If they refuse to do so, they are admitting that they have their reward and lack nothing they desire. We oppose them not by amassing wealth and power of our own to wield against them, but by eschewing them, and that brings me to my final conundrum:

If, in the marketplace of ideas, a significant number of the Occupy Wall Street sympathizers should choose Love’s Anarchy as their protest product of choice, then the first thing that will happen is that I will amass a large amount of money and power. There are books and t-shirts and advertising space I can sell, and the long and the short of it is that I might, against all odds and previous experience, substantially fail to fail. God forbid (truly) that I ever succeed to the point of becoming one of the 1%, but I could conceivably become rich beyond all earthly need, and the question then would become: What do we do with the hypocrites, of which our founder is now one?

Here’s my confession: Even if, as seems likely, Love’s Anarchy never makes me a whole lot of money, I am still slated to inherit some small amount of land that has been in the family for almost as long as the US has been a united conglomeration of states. As silly as it may sound to one of the many, many people who never have to worry about inheriting land, I feel a certain responsibility to pass it along intact to my progeny and/or close kin. In other words, I question my own right to allow my quirks and eccentricities to deprive my descendents of their birthright. I love this land. It has been my home since I was seven, in my family for generations, and my ancestors had as much right to claim it as the Israelites had to claim the land of Canaan, that is, none at all, aka, divine right. We know the divine willed us to have it because it’s ours. Quod Erat Demonstratum.

If the opportunity arises, I will establish a trust to pay the property taxes on the land in perpetuity and thus keep it in the family. I may even buy more to reclaim what has been sold over the course of various lean years. But how does one go about being a land-owning anarchist? How does that work, exactly?

Somehow, love’s anarchy has to accept people who own land without prizing landownership as an established good. In the same way, we have to accept that some anarchists will be leaders, without allowing love’s anarchy ever to accept as its head anyone other than the holy spirit of God. I think somehow we have to be able to look upon someone’s apparent success as a somewhat embarrassing failure to fail–accepting them, loving them, occasionally even envying them, but never aspiring to become them.

Good grief! Now I’m a heretic and a hypocrite. What’s next? Haberdasher? Heffalump? Hiccuper? Horticulturalist? Whale/human hybrid?

You don’t have to answer that.